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Delaware EARNS — Increasing Financial Security in Delaware Through a State-Facilitated Retirement Program


Delaware has one of the most vibrant small business communities in the country, with 98% of businesses in the state having 100 employees or less. Small businesses also employ over half of the workforce in Delaware. Yet, The AARP Public Policy Institute reports that about 66 percent of Delaware’s small business employees do not have access to a retirement plan at work. At this rate, half of all households are at risk of not being able to handle everyday expenses – like medicine, utilities, and rent – in their later years.

Providing small businesses with a retirement savings option facilitated by the state is one way we can help solve this dilemma. Sometimes called Work & Save, these state-facilitated retirement programs provide small businesses with a no-cost, plug-and-play retirement option that helps their employees to grow the savings they need to take control of their future.

An Innovative Solution: Delaware EARNS (Expanding Access for Retirement and Necessary Savings)

Work & Save programs like Delaware EARNS are very simple in their design. Basically, businesses with five or more workers offer access to automatic payroll deductions in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). They are run through a public-private partnership administered by the state and managed by the private-sector. The program is portable, so workers can take their savings with them when they leave a job. For small business owners who want to provide for their employees, but cannot afford to offer a retirement savings plan, Delaware EARNS is a viable no-cost, no-risk option.

Delaware EARNS doesn’t just make sense for individuals who benefit from increased financial security. It also represents potential savings for the state, which currently spends millions of dollars providing assistance to seniors through public programs like Medicaid and housing assistance. If all Delawareans saved enough to increase their retirement income by an extra thousand dollars a year, the state could save up to $18.2 million in taxpayer dollars by 2032.

 Delaware EARNS will also help smaller and medium-sized businesses compete with their larger counterparts for top talent. Having access to this new retirement savings option allows these employers to recruit and retain employees, without taking on the time and expense of administering plans themselves.

Programs like Delaware EARNS are growing in popularity throughout the country. States like Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Colorado, and California have enacted programs in the past few years. In particular, Oregon’s program has seen positive growth even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs have helped small businesses all over the country, and they can help small businesses here in Delaware, too.

 If you are interested in learning more about Delaware EARNS or want to use your voice as a business owner to help make this program a reality, please contact Sheila Grant at or visit AARP Delaware for more information.

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